One of the first men to single handedly terrorize the nation was Herman Webster Mudgett, more commonly known as H.H. Holmes. As a rather successful businessman with a degree in medicine, few would suspect the horrible secrets he kept locked away in the hotel he had built as his own personal torture chamber. By the time he was arrested, Mudgett had already taken an upwards of one hundred lives in a way that would shock the world.
Born on May 16, 1861 in Gilmanton, New Hampshire to devout Methodist parents, Herman Mudgett was an intelligent boy who was quite inquisitive and had a fondness for inventing things (Dahl). Being a son in an extremely religious family, Mudgett had to follow strict guidelines; he would be harshly punished by his father if he went against the family rules (H.H. Holmes Bio…). As a child Mudgett was a loner with only a few friends. He first encountered death at an early age when his closest friend, Tom, died after falling in an abandoned house that the two were playing in (Dahl). Some speculate that Herman was responsible for his friend’s death but this has not been proven. His quiet personality and smaller size made him a common target for bullying. In one instance, two older boys, who had discovered he had an extreme fear of doctors, forced him to look at and touch a human skeleton found in a doctor’s office. Instead of scaring him, as the bullies had intended, the skeleton fascinated Herman and he soon became fixated on death (Spikol) He found comfort in the woods surrounding his house where he would often experiment on animals, dead or alive (H.H. Holmes Bio…). “Herman’s experiments fed his keen intellect and strange desires” (H.H. Holmes Bio…) for finding out what made the body run.
Graduating high school early, Mudgett enrolled in medical school at the University of Michigan when he was only 19 years old. It was no coincidence that the particular university he chose was known for its human dissections (H.H. Holmes Bio…). It is believed he paid his tuition by taking life insurance policies out on cadavers stolen from the school lab and then arranging the bodies to look as though they had died in an accident (Dahl). After graduating, Mudgett had a reputation for shady business dealings and frequently skipped town when he began attracting unwanted attention. He was a common swindler and often made outlandish claims, such as claiming he had invented a machine that turned water into natural gas (Dahl). Eventually however, in 1886, he was able to settle down after landing a job at a drug store in Chicago under the alias Henry Howard Holmes (Dahl).
Holmes worked for the drug store’s owners, Mr. and Mrs. Holton. After Mr. Holton lost his fight with cancer, Mrs. Holton agreed to sell the business to Holmes at a considerably low price in exchange for her permanent lodging in the apartment above. However, after Holmes failed to pay, Mrs. Holton took legal action against him. Soon after this incident, Mrs. Holton was never seen...